A highly respected member of Otago hapu Te Runanga o Otakou was one of two men found dead after a boat foundered off Fiordland yesterday. The bodies of the two men were found near Breaksea Sound. Their names are yet to be released.

Police provided few details of the incident, but said emergency services were alerted after the discovery of one man's body and the wreckage of the boat.

"The first man's body and the wreckage of the boat was discovered yesterday afternoon and a search was initiated," police said in a statement.

"The body of the second man was located some time later. The matter is being referred to the Coroner."

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One of the men lives at Otakou, on the Otago Peninsula.

Te Runanga o Otakou representative Tahu Potiki said the men's bodies were flown to Te Anau. It is understood one man owned the boat and the other was a crew member.

Southern Lakes Helicopters was alerted to the wreckage by another vessel. A spokeswoman said the company sent two helicopters in response to the alert.

A Maritime New Zealand spokeswoman said the Rescue Coordination Centre organised the initial search before handing the matter over to police once the bodies were recovered.